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How Romantic Comedies Ruined My Life
Cupid may be shooting arrows, but Dan's wearing full plate mail.

The Kindness of Strangers
Dan steps back from the world of geekdom to address a problem that faces humanity as a whole.

A Day in the Life
If your life had a soundtrack, what would it be? Here's one possibility from the life of Dan.

This Guy Reads from a Card!
Mild-mannered Brits get caught up in the deadliest addicition of our decade: quiz shows. Will the world ever be safe again?

Happily Ever After...
How escapism can open a window to a happier and more fulfilling life or Why we should continue to read fairy tales to our children.

Check the archives for more columns.

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How Romantic Comedies Ruined My Life  

Now, I know it's Valentine's Day, and I'm supposed to feel all happy and loving, but, you know what? I feel happy and loving most days, and I don't feel the need to be forced into it just because it happens to be the middle of February. First of all, it's really freaking cold. Second of all, this is really just another ploy of that big evil enemy...yup, Hollywood. Okay, I know I've defended them in the past, and I still hold true to what I said in that column. So if I come across as a hypocrite today, put it down to the duality of my feelings on that time-honored convention that I previously upheld: the happy ending.

Now, I love happy endings. They make me feel good, and and not good in a drug-taking, or alcohol-induced sort of stupor: good in a wholesome way. I can't help but feel vindicated when things turn out well for the nice guy. But at the same time, after I escape the involving nature of the romantic comedy in question (and it is invariably a romantic comedy, especially at this time of the year) I am left feeling unfulfilled.

The movie always starts off with some poor sap who's been pitifully unlucky in love. So far, so good. This is where they really grab me, because I'm a sucker and like the typical romantic comedy hero, I too have been sadly unlucky in love. Hence, I begin to identify with the character on the screen, trying to connect parts of my own experience with things that happen to him onscreen, usually with a fair degree of success.

So our hapless fool is winding his way through the hour and forty-five minutes which it will take to improve his life and fortunes, as a consequence of which he'll end up rich, probably handsomer than he started, and, of course, getting it on with the girl that he can't attain at the beginning of the movie (because he's too stupid/ugly/emotionally dysfunctional). And hey, that's all great for Freddie Prinze Jr. (or any of his numerous carbon copies), but suddenly my hopeful identification with our film's protagonist is gone down the drain and I'm left behind nursing an empty can of Coke and a sizeable therapy bill.

I'm as guilty of conforming to this Hollywood stereotype as anyone else. As Jason commented after I'd explained one of my screenplay ideas to him, "that's great, but you may want to tinker the ending...because I've never known anybody who's driven away into the sunrise in a convertible." I resented it at the time, because that was how the movie in my head ended, but in retrospect, and upon weeks of thought, I'd realized that he was right: I was just propagating the Hollywood cliche that has helped destroy my life and the life of countless other poor saps like me.

All throughout high school, I was too painfully shy to even approach most girls. But I imagined that somehow, some day, my perfect woman would show up and wisk me away into that magical world of romantic comedy endings. The music would swell, I'd pull open the door for her, and we'd drive off (my Honda Accord magically becoming a Ferrari along the way). Needless to say, this never happened, and in ninety-nine percent of possible realities, will never happen.

But in college, I began to become more comfortable with the idea of the opposite sex, and even endeavored, on a few unsuccessful occasions, to engage in some form of what might be called "dating." Or what I will call "living hell." You see, the problem is that every woman in the world has seen the same movies I have. And they want to be swept off their feet by their strong, handsome, perfect man. The problem is, they don't want to take the time or effort to go along kissing every frog they meet until they find the one that turns into their Prince Charming. So our poor sod from Act I never makes it to Act III where everything ends happily ever after. And our clueless girl ends up with a drunken fratboy who probably goes on to become a United States Senator while our hero spends the rest of his days with his all-too-healthy fantasy life.

Maybe it's the time of year that's reinforced these opinions — very rarely have I passed a happy Valentine's Day; at least not since elementary school where the teachers very carefully made sure that everyone got at least one valentine. I long for those days, when all it took to make me happy, even for only an hour, was a one by three inch piece of pink and red cardboard and a tiny sugar heart that tasted suspiciously like chalk.

So though I do not wish to get in the habit of concluding my weekly expostulations with injunctions, I shall indulge myself for the second week in a row. Rather than those well-meaning but never fulfilled New Year's Resolutions, I adjure you to instead take upon yourself these Valentine's Day Resolutions. If you're one of those guys stuck in Act I of the romantic comedy formula, then forge ahead on your own: trust to your own wits, not those of Hollywood's lapdog screenwriters. And if you're one of those girls waiting desperately for Prince Charming, you might want to take the time to stop and kiss a frog along the way.

Dan Moren used to have a frog. But it was just a frog. Really.

All text and images 2000 by Jason, Kai, Dan, Tony, and Mecha Gaijin. He WILL kick your ass. Instant superfine!
All characters are ™ & © their respective owners. All Rights Reserved. Some Comics Ex Machina (CXM) strips are satirical in nature, and are not intended maliciously. CXM has invented all names and situations in its strips, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody. CXM makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceding information.